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And Now You Know: The day after Pearl Harbor in Orange

By Mike Louviere

The Orange Leader

On the morning of December 8, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed a joint session of congress. His speech was only seven minutes long, but it had an everlasting effect. He opened the speech with these words: “Yesterday, December 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy…..” He went on to relate that the United States had been attacked by Japan. At the conclusion of his speech, a 33 minute discussion was held, then, the vote was taken to declare war on the Empire of Japan. In the Senate, the vote was 82-0, the House of Representatives voted 388 for a declaration of war, with only Congresswoman Jeanette Rankin voting against the declaration.

The speech was carried on every radio network in the United States, as had been the news of the attack on the naval base at Pearl Harbor the day before. The afternoon edition of the Orange Leader on December 8, 1941, with the banner headline, “Congress Declares War on Japan”, carried the entire text of the president’s address to Congress, news about the Japanese attacks in the Pacific, and a good amount of “normal news” for the time. There was a story about the large number of telephone calls made on the new system in Orange, some social news, church news, advertisements, etc. At the bottom of the front page in the center columns was news about Orangeites who were in military service in the Pacific on December 7.

Ensign John B. Nelson, the son of Mr. and Mrs. John Nelson was on the USS Houston with the Asiatic Fleet. The Houston was a heavy cruiser that was sunk in the Battle of Sundra Strait on March 1, 1942.

Winfred Mitcham was a member of the office staff on the plane carrier, “The Hood” on duty in the Pacific.

Lester Barre was in the Navy on the USS Marblehead. His sister Agnes was an Army nurse stationed at Pamtang, in the Philippines. Agnes was captured by the Japanese on Corregidor in 1942, and spent the remainder of the war interned by the Japanese in the prison camp at Santo Tomas University in Manila. Their parents were Mr. an Mrs. V. Barre.

Lt. Blake Forest was a member of the crew of the USS Tennessee, one of the heavily damaged battleships at Pearl Harbor. He was the son of Mr. and Mrs. N.B. Forest.

C.B. Snead had been in Orange working with Bechtel, McCone and Parsons doing construction work on the new shipyard. He had gone to Manila and was employed on a government construction project there. His wife had accompanied him, but had recently returned to the United States.

Almon Callahan had been an employee of Gulf States. He was now in the Navy and stationed at Pearl Harbor. His father was W. Callahan.

Luther Ray Harrison was reported to be on the USS Fulton, “somewhere in the Pacific.”

M. Powell was with the U.S. Navy in the Philippines, according to his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Roy Powell.

Precinct 4 Commissioner Hammond Willey’s son, Bailey Willey was serving on the USS Howard “in the Pacific.”

Grady Poole, the twin brother of Grace Poole, a nurse at Frances Ann Lutcher Hospital was stationed with the U. S. Navy in Shanghai, China.

Ensign Lynn Hurst, of Beaumont, was doing duty on the Burma Road. He was the nephew of Mrs. J.W. Maxwell of Orange. Mrs. Maxwell’s brother, Curtis L. Hurst was stationed on Wake Island. Hurst was a civilian employee of a government aircraft concern of Los Angles, California.

As short as this list was it is interesting to see the diversity of duty of these men and the one woman. Hopefully Ensign Nelson survived the sinking of the Houston, and maybe Lt. Forest survived the attack on the Tennessee. Lt. Barre survived her imprisonment by the Japanese and remained in the nursing corps for years following the end of the war. Snead may have been in the same camp as Lt. Barre, since he was a civilian.

The Japanese that captured Wake Island took 19 of the civilian construction workers to a beach on the island and executed them. Hopefully Curtis Hurst was not one of those.

This was one of the first reports of those from Orange that went to war. Over the next four years there would be more news about Orangeites at war, some good, and some sad.

“And now you know”